When you choose to become a nurse, there are several different career paths you can consider.
Some nurses love their day-to-day work and want to focus exclusively on direct patient care for the duration of their careers. Others may want to shift into public health, education, or a managerial role like working as a charge nurse. Becoming a charge nurse is a promotion in and of itself, but it also can set you up for a future career in management.
So what exactly is a charge nurse, and why is it a role that some nurses consider?
What Is a Charge Nurse?
In healthcare facilities like hospitals, a charge nurse will act in a supervisory role. They’ll oversee a specific unit or floor, ensuring that everything runs smoothly, but they’ll also have their own patients and standard nursing tasks. For many, being charge nurses is the best of both worlds. You get additional responsibilities, including leading a team, while you still get to be hands-on in patient care.
Some facilities will hire or promote team members specifically to be charge nurses. Their role is full-time, and it won’t change; they’re charge nurses regardless of when they work. Others may qualify nurses as potential charge nurses, a role that may be allocated on a rotating basis as needed.
What Responsibilities Does a Charge Nurse Have?
The responsibilities of a charge nurse may vary slightly depending on the specific unit they’re supervising and the facility they’re working at.
That said, it’s common for charge nurses to have the following tasks during a standard shift:
- Managing other nurses in the unit, including supervising overall patient care
- Coordinating patient assignments
- Overseeing admin and discharge schedules
- Providing resources for the clinical staff on shift and acting as an additional party to help find solutions as needed
- Being ready to step in to handle patient concerns, team member concerns, or potential escalations
- Caring for their own patients while overseeing the unit
- Monitoring and ordering supplies, including medications and potentially PPE for the floor
- Administrative tasks, including adhering to the facility’s policies
The Benefits of Being a Charge Nurse
There are plenty of responsibilities that come with being a charge nurse, but the good news is that there are a few solid benefits that are associated with the role, too.
Let’s take a look at each.
One of the biggest perks of working as a charge nurse is the financial incentive! Charge nurses have higher salaries or higher per-hour rates than standard staff nurses in most cases. While the exact difference will be impacted by a variety of factors (including whether it’s a permanent full-time position or a travel nursing or PRN gig), you can expect to see a pay increase when working in a charge nurse role.
Career Advancement Opportunities
If you want to work as a nurse manager or in other supervisory positions in the future, taking on a charge nurse role is a great first step. You’ll get to dip your toes into the admin waters, so to speak; easing into managerial work while you still have a supervising manager is an outstanding way to learn the ropes, develop your leadership skills, and see how you like the additional responsibilities.
More Diversity to Your Day
Sometimes you just need to change things up. And while many nurses do get diversity thanks to a variety of different patient conditions (and even unique patient personalities!), there are times when you still need a little more change.
Being a charge nurse can give you that diversity that you need, adding additional tasks to your day. If you like management, administrative, and logistical work, this is a great way to include more of that into your daily routine.
Who Should Consider Becoming a Charge Nurse?
Love the idea of becoming a charge nurse?
The first thing you’ll need to do (if you haven’t already) is to get your registered nursing (RN) license. If you want to become a charge nurse, going through a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) program can give you a long-term advantage compared to an associate’s degree.
You’ll then need to spend three years or more (some hospitals may require longer) working as a clinical patient care nurse. If you want to work as a charge nurse in a particular unit, make sure a solid chunk of your time is spent in that specialty. During your time as a staff nurse, make sure you’re learning about hospital policies and procedures. Show that you’re taking the initiative to be a go-getter, and demonstrate that you’re a team player.
In addition to actual clinical experience, soft skills can make all the difference in obtaining a charge nurse position. Specifically, you’ll need to have the following skills:
- Strong and effective communication
- Ability to make difficult decisions, even with conflicting sources of information
- Good organization, planning, and time management abilities
- Remaining calm under pressure
Taking a charge nurse position could be an excellent choice if you want to take the next step forward in your career. You get more pay, more diverse daily tasks, and experience that can help you qualify for additional promotions in the future.
If you’re unsure what sort of work you’d like to specialize in as a charge nurse, you can always consider using PRN nursing work to try out different specialties and see what you love.
And if you want to take this step, consider making an appointment to talk to your direct supervisor. Ask what your hospital requires to become a charge nurse, and ask if they have any feedback on skills you should work on to be a good fit. No one knows better than your current nurse manager, and they can help you see what next steps you should take.
Want to chat with other charge nurses or talk about your career ambitions? Get involved with our community here!